Responding to the needs of the community


MAN IN DEMAND Dr Jason Horan who is the emergency responder with Mayo Irish Community Rapid Response. Pic: Darren Moran Photography

Since September 2015, Dr Jason Horan has responded to 148 emergency calls on a voluntary basis

Anton McNulty

TO the majority of the Mayo population, the words Mayo Community Rapid Response will mean very little to them. That is unsurprising given that they have only been in existence since September 2015, but if you are in need of emergency care, the likelihood is they will be the first on the scene.
To use the word ‘they’ to describe Mayo Community Rapid Response (MCRR) is a little bit misleading because it is essentially a one-man show. It is operated by Dr Jason Horan, who also happens to be a Consultant in Emergency Medicine in Mayo University Hospital.
If Dr Horan’s day job is not busy enough, he is also on-call to respond to calls and requests by the HSE to assist in emergency calls - and all on a voluntary basis.
“It’s pretty much 24/7,” he told The Mayo News on his role in MCRR. “It can be tiring and push you, particularly the calls in the middle of the night. But in fairness those tend to be fairly significant and you never mind getting out of bed for them … but it does mess you up for the following day.”
MCRR is a branch of Irish Community Rapid Response which was set up in West Cork in 2008 following the preventable loss of a child’s life in 2006. Galvanised by the tragedy, community members embarked on a mission to expedite the delivery of professional A&E care to life-threatening emergencies in rural areas.
In conjunction with the HSE National Ambulance Service, a volunteer doctor responds to 999 calls where there is a critical illness or significant injury. The success of the West Cork model helped launch similar networks throughout Ireland with branches now in East Cork, Wicklow, Mayo and North Dublin.
Two years ago, Dr Horan started his new role in Mayo University Hospital and within a few months, the ICRR CEO John Kearney approached him to set up a Mayo rapid response. With a strong interest in pre-hospital care and having taught the advanced paramedic programme in UCD, Dr Horan agreed to take up the challenge.
He was supplied with an SUV, a defibrillator, oxygen and medical supplies and since September 2015 has responded to 148 emergency calls.

Ambulance control
“Everything is done through ambulance control. When someone rings 999 the national emergency centre takes the call details and if it fits into my predetermined dispatch criteria I automatically get a text alert on my phone,” the 37-year-old Clare native explained.
“I respond to an average of three calls a week. In Mayo in particular there can be quite long distances involved in transporting people to hospital. I can bring a particular skill set and can start some treatment that they wouldn’t ordinarily get before they arrive in hospital. There is a broader range of medications I can give that advanced paramedics cannot.”
Dr Horan lives in Westport with his wife Mary and theoretically operates within a 25km radius of his home and work but in reality responds to calls beyond that. He has been to Connemara a number of times, as well as to Ballina, Charlestown and areas around Claremorris.
He feels the sheer size and remoteness of the county means that this service is vital to saving lives.
“For the cardiac arrests I been to, about two thirds of those I have been the first emergency service on the scene. There has been three cardiac arrests, that we managed to get back and bring to hospital. You cannot say for definite whether they would have been resuscitated anyway or not. Looking back at the interventions, we have been able to make a difference,” he said.
Running a one-man show, Dr Horan has often found himself responding to an emergency in the middle of the night or in the middle of dinner. With two young children, Molly and Jonah, aged under four and a responsible job in the hospital, what makes him want the extra responsibility.
“A lot of people are surprised when I tell them it is a voluntary thing…[but] it is something I enjoy. A lot of it is my own personality and background and my own interests. Growing up it is a lot what I considered a doctor to be, providing emergency care. So really it is an extension of that.”
While MCRR gets supported by the HSE in terms of medical supplies, they have other major expenses such as the maintenance of their vehicle and insurance. They rely entirely on the support of the public and Dr Horan admitted fundraising can be quite difficult.
“Absolutely we need a lot of support. There are two arms to it. First is fundraising aspect and I would like people to run a couple of small events. The other is providing logistical support. If I have to go to a call in the middle of nowhere and have to go to the hospital with the patient, trying to get me reunited with the vehicle and back home can be quite difficult.
“Ideally if I had one or two people I could phone and say I’m in Galway and car is in Achill will you help me get home. There are a lot of things people can do to help out.”

MORE For more information on Mayo Community Rapid Response and to get involved, check out their website or their Facebook page or follow them on Twitter.